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16 September, 2020 Open access

Contingency arrangements in the First-Tier Tribunal and the Upper Tribunal during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic extended to March 2021

Acting Senior President of Tribunals reissues Pilot Practice Directions that include new guidance on ‘hybrid' hearings and the use of former salaried judges

The Acting Senior President of Tribunals Vice President Sir Keith Lindblom has amended and extended two Pilot Practice Directions issued in March 2020 that set out contingency arrangements in the First-tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Introducing each of the amended Practice Directions, Sir Keith - who has been appointed as new Senior President from 19 September 2020 - says -

‘On 19 March 2020, Sir Ernest Ryder, Senior President of Tribunals, issued a Pilot Practice Direction setting out how the First-tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal might adjust their ways of working in relation to panel composition during the COVID-19 pandemic, to limit the spread of the virus and manage their workloads appropriately.

Having reviewed that Practice Direction, I have decided to extend it to 18 March 2021…. The Practice Direction may be reviewed again prior to its expiry should it become inappropriate or unnecessary, and may be revoked at any time. The Lord Chancellor has approved the amendments in accordance with section 23 Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007.’

Amendments to the first of the two Directions - Contingency Arrangements in the First-Tier Tribunal and the Upper Tribunal - include a reference to temporary rules inserted into tribunal procedure rules by the Tribunal Procedure (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Rules 2020 that remove the general requirement that applies in many tribunal jurisdictions to have an oral hearing.

In addition, the amended Direction includes new guidance on ‘hybrid' hearings -

‘Where a tribunal decides to conduct a ‘hybrid’ hearing (i.e. a hearing where there are participants attending the hearing in a physical courtroom and participants attending the same hearing remotely), the places from which participants attend the hearing shall, for the duration of the hearing, be deemed an extension of the courtroom.’

In the second Practice Direction - Panel Composition in the First-Tier Tribunal and the Upper Tribunal - amendments include the addition of references to the use of former salaried judges, that incorporates guidance previously effected by a separate Practice Direction.